On a recent trip to Ireland we gorged on crab, it was everywhere, huge helpings of it. We tried it all kinds of ways, but coming back ravenous from a trip to the Hook lighthouse we stopped in a cafe in Fethard and had crab on toast with a Mary Rose sauce, topped (yes, I was doubtful) with grated Irish cheddar. It was the best of everything we tried. I think a few prawns wouldn’t go amiss with it either.
Why is Mary Rose sauce called Mary Rose?
OK, here’s the timeline.
In 1545 the Tudor war ship Mary Rose was sunk in the Solent, in a battle to prevent the French landing and isolating Britain from Europe. There was a tragic loss of hundreds of lives.
In 1955 Berni Inns, a chain of steakhouses, was founded by two brothers, Frank and Aldo Berni. The 147 restaurants became synonymous with classic sixties food.
In the sixties the celebrity cook Fanny Cradock first mixed tomato ketchup with mayonnaise and building on the american oyster cocktail she invented the British version of the prawn cocktail (or, as it is known in one Cairo restaurant, ‘prawn cock and tail’). It became one of the signature dishes of the Berni Inns.
In the meantime numerous efforts were being made to salvage the Mary Rose – all failed, but in 1982 she was finally raised by divers. The divers were sustained by a Royal Navy chef who underestimated the amount of sauce he needed, resulting in a creative culinary eureka moment. All he had was mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, and tomato ketchup…. so….
Even though this happened after Mrs Craddock’s invention somehow people preferred the name and it was adopted… and at that time, in the same way that in the days of the empire everything was renamed ‘royal‘, in the eighties everything was given a french twist to make it seem more chic and elegant. So Mary Rose became Marie Rose….
In the States they have a very similar sauce called Thousand Island dressing, it’s often bought ready made which is pretty dire. But it IS okay to make your own Mary Rose sauce using bought mayonnaise.
Saucy Dressings’ updated version
In any case, after some experimentation I’ve updated Fanny Craddock’s original mayonnaise and ketchup mix. I’ve made the mayonnaise a bit lighter by combining it with yoghurt. And I’ve substituted the ketchup with sundried tomato paste because I reckon that, together with the added umami, that gives a bit of extra depth and flavour.
Recipe for a Mary Rose sauce – updated by Saucy Dressings:
for two to mix with the crab (and maybe prawns) and pile onto buttered toast, and top with some grated cheddar.
for two or so
- 5 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- 5 tbsp mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp sundried tomato paste (or ordinary tomato paste)
- 2 tbsp whisky (or you could use brandy)
- 4 drops tabasco
- dash of lemon juice
- ¼ teasp of Patum Peperium (or a tsp of Worcester sauce, or a little grated horseradish)
- smoked salt and paprika (use the paprika as a garnish, and/or you can sprinkle on a little furikake)
mix all together and Bob is your uncle.